Lowcountry basketball fans got quite a treat Saturday at McAlister Field House. In the same regular season finale, they got to see the top Ratings Percentage Index team in the state and the state's most valuable college player.
Sadly, the College of Charleston entered its 55-47 victory at a modest No. 114 on the RPI scale, and The Citadel's Mike Groselle plays on a losing team.
The beat goes on. The Cougars and USC Upstate (No. 138) have better RPI numbers than Clemson (No. 156) and South Carolina (No. 180).
Which means your NCAA tournament bracket probably won't include a Palmetto State team for the first time since …
Time to look for a March Madness port in the storm, a South Carolina team that steps forward next week or the next.
"I wouldn't be surprised at all," said Mark Byington, after improving to 7-3 as Cougars interim head coach over the month since Bobby Cremins took a medical leave. "We've played against Coastal Carolina, and they have a good team. Charleston Southern, I think, is terrific. They beat Wofford, who we had trouble beating, and their guards are as fun to watch as guards on any team in the country."
College of Charleston beat Davidson this month and has made strides on defense.
Charleston Southern has a Big South shot, but would have to defeat top seed UNC-Asheville in Asheville.
Wofford, back-to-back SoCon champion, might give top-seeded Davidson fits.
Clemson, somehow, is 7-7 in the ACC but has never won an ACC tournament.
Best chance? Maybe USC Upstate. The Spartans, led by head coach Eddie "House Of" Payne, already have a win over Atlantic Sun power Belmont.
The S.C. bracket
If no Palmetto State team gets into the Field of 68, we must take action. Appeal to the NCAA and Dick Vitale. Seek a TV deal from ESPN8, "The Ocho."
Make entertainment out of mediocrity: The Palmetto State Cheaper by the Dozen Invitational.
The bracket, with seeding by current RPI rank (in parenthesis): First round -- No. 12 S.C. State (340) at No. 5 USC (180); No. 11 The Citadel (327) at No. 6 Coastal Carolina (184); No. 10 Winthrop (277) at No. 7 Wofford (187); No. 9 Presbyterian (264) at No. 8 Furman (248).
Quarterfinals -- Presbyterian/Furman winner at No. 1 College of Charleston (114); Winthrop/Wofford winner at No. 2 USC-Upstate (138); Citadel/Coastal winner at No. 3 Clemson (156); S.C. State/USC winner at No. 4 Charleston Southern (168).
What we really need is a team or two too busy to participate, thus ruining the concept for the first time since 1995.
Citadel head coach Chuck Driesell hints at hope in the SoCon tournament.
"I think it's up for grabs," Driesell said. "When we first played Davidson, I hadn't seen a team as good in my two years here. But when we played them (Feb. 9 at The Citadel), it was a better game. And they've dropped a few. I think College of Charleston has a great shot at it. They're very, very talented."
No Marshall plan
The Atlanta Braves won their only World Series.
The O.J. trial.
Mickey Mantle died.
No Palmetto State teams in the NCAA tournament.
It's been quite a run. Since 1995, we have had contributions ranging from S.C. State to South Carolina, from College of Charleston and Wofford. Clemson has made seven -- count 'em seven -- NCAA tournament appearances since 1995, and no program gets more credit for keeping the Palmetto State dancing than Winthrop's Big South dynasty designed by current Wichita State head coach Gregg Marshall.
No high-flying Eagles to bail us out this year.
It's up to Upstate, or an upstart. Or start over next year.
Reach Gene Sapakoff at firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter: @sapakoff.